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Paola Arlotta, Ph.D.

Image of Paola Arlotta, Ph.D.

Dr. Paola Arlotta is the Golub Family Professor and Chair of the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University. She is a principal faculty member at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, an institute member at the Broad Institute, and an associate member of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute.

The function of the brain relies on the integration into functional circuits of an outstanding diversity of cell types. Generation and maintenance of cell diversity, correct wiring into neural circuits, and orchestrated interaction of neurons and glia are critical, and when disrupted lead to neurological disease.

Focusing on the developing cerebral cortex, the Arlotta lab has had a long-standing interest in discovering the mechanistic principles that govern the establishment and maintenance of cellular diversity and its integration into working networks that subserve cortical function. While mice are instrumental for this basic work, the cortex has diverged dramatically in primates, and there is limited knowledge of development of the human cortex. Motivated by understanding how our own cortex develops and how human neurodevelopmental disease emerges, the lab has built on their basic program in the mouse to instruct, validate and study human cortical development in vitro, within 3D cortical organoids of unprecedented complexity and reproducibility.

Collectively, the Arlotta lab research program explores the interface between development and engineering of the neocortex, to gain fundamental understanding of both the principles that govern normal cortical development and of previously-inaccessible mechanisms of human neurodevelopmental disease.

Dr. Arlotta received her M.S. in biochemistry from the University of Trieste, Italy, and her Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Portsmouth in the UK. She subsequently completed her postdoctoral training in neuroscience at Harvard Medical School.


  • SCRB 185

    Brain Development, Risk of Mental Illness, and New Approaches to Treatment Development

    Description: What is mental illness? How well can we distinguish illness from normal variation in cognition and behavior? Why in most cases do patients present with symptoms by age twenty? This course will explore mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric disorders through the lens of autism spectrum disorder, which begins in early childhood, and schizophrenia, which begins during adolescence. In exploring vulnerability and pathogenesis, the course will weave together material that spans human genetics and environmental exposures, human brain development and neural circuit formation, and remodeling of brain circuits by experience. Given the complexity of the brain and its disorders and the limited access to living human brains, the course will also explore and evaluate our sources of knowledge, our model systems such as human brain organoid models, and our technologies such as brain-computer interfaces. The course will highlight experimental approaches poised to elucidate disease mechanisms and deliver much needed therapeutics for some of the most devastating pathologies of our time.

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